Homestay in Ca Tao

Our first night in Vietnam was a local homestay in Ca Tao. I’ve only done one homestay before in Peru which was a pretty incredible experience. I know this will be slightly different but I’m looking forward to it!

When we arrived we had to walk 5-10 minutes to get to the house. It was a rural area away from the road. It looked pretty cool when we got there. Like the homestay before a lot of things were handmade.

The family cooked an amazing dinner for us which included homemade spring rolls, chicken in a clay pot, green beans, prawn crackers, tofu, steamed rice and pumpkin soup. There was way too much food for us and it felt a shame wasting it but they truly spoilt us.

When we finished dinner a few of the group stayed to chat. It was not a late night though and most people were in bed by 10.30/11pm.

The bedrooms were small with mattresses laid on the floor. They provided a big mosquito net because we were in the woods a bit so there were a lot of mosquitos flying around.

It was a cool experience to be fair. I remember watching a video about Indochina Discovery on YouTube before I left and this homestay featured in the video. When I watched the YouTube video at first I thought it was the sleeper train but as soon as we arrived in Ca Tao I recognised it.

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The long trek to Vietnam…

Another hangover, joy. I never learn.

We began our horrific trek to Vietnam early in the morning. The only thing keeping me going was the thoughts that Vietnam will be amazing. All of my friends that have been there have said it’s one of their favourite places so it sounds really cool!

The border crossing was similar to the Peru to Bolivia border. It was pretty low key with a few barriers to stop vehicles driving through without permission. We were at the border crossing for about an hour before we got through to Vietnam. Let’s see what this country has to offer! Another stamp on the passport…

We stopped in a small local town for lunch. I tried the chicken clay pot and I have to say the flavour and taste of Vietnamese food is very different, in a good way! It had a lot of flavour and in some ways reminded me of India because they pride themselves on making food really tasty using herbs and spices.

Vietnam looks cool!

Day on a boat…. snorkelling, BBQ on the beach, volleyball and a lot of fun! Followed by a few drinks in town!

The weather held out! We all got breakfast at the same restaurant which was right next to the sea and jumped onto a boat to begin the day.

We stopped in a shallow area of the sea near the cliffs where we could snorkel. Our tour guide told us to be careful of the coral and sea urchins which are close to the top of the water. It took me all of 5 minutes once I got in the water to split my foot open on the coral. In my defence I wasn’t trying to stand on the seabed but i tried to turn in the water and as I went to swim in the new direction my foot hit some coral which was just under a meter below the surface. So now I had to deal with a foot which kept bleeding.

The snorkelling was ok but the water was a bit misty and dark so it was hard to see anything. The tour guide kept throwing bread in the water to attract fish so we could get photos or videos of them. It worked as well and loads of small fish started to appear. This was the first time I had used my GoPro in the water and I was excited to see what kind of videos I could get!

Once we got to the beach we were able to chill in the sea, play with a volleyball and then on the island a few of the family dogs had a litter of puppies so obviously loads of us went to see them.

We played volleyball for a bit, had really nice BBQ food on the beach and just chilled for a few hours. What a day!

Once we left the island we stopped at one more place for snorkelling. With my foot pretty destroyed and the disappointment of snorkelling first time around there was only one thing to do…. dive of the boat into the water and try forward rolls. It was good fun and me and the Australian guy kept jumping in until we had to leave. Decent boat tour! And it was now about 4/4.30pm.

Once we got back to the mainland we chilled for a few hours before heading to dinner. Only a few people wanted to go for drinks so Maxime, Sean and I went for drinks which got a bit messy. We thought it would be a great idea to go swimming in the sea at 1am. When we were at the beach Sean left his backpack on the sand by the water which had his phone, wallet, passport and money in.

Whilst in the water I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye moving around and I told the other two. Sean went to check it out but his backpack had gone… he asked this random guy who suddenly appeared and his backpack had been moved by him. If he had waited any longer he would not have got his backpack back. The random man has the audacity to offer Sean a Tuk Tuk ride once he handed back the bag. What is wrong with people? This is where the “Tuk Tuk?” quote comes from.

Eventful night.

Sihanoukville, a beach town

After leaving Phnom Penh we began our trip to Sihanoukville which was a beach town in Cambodia. The weather up until this point had been amazing but when we got to Sihanoukville it was absolutely pouring with rain and there was thunder and lightning. It was like being back at home…

We all got some time to freshen up which was great after travelling for a while! In the evening we walked down to the beach and got some BBQ food from a local restaurant. It was still raining outside but the experience was pretty cool. The food was also really nice!

It was a quiet night for all of us. We went back to the hotel and tried to get an early nights sleep.

Sihanoukville looks like it could be really cool but hopefully the weather improves. If it carries on raining then it could spoil it a little bit!

In the morning we are all going on a boat tour which involves snorkelling, staying on a beach with a BBQ where you can play volleyball. Should be a good day – weather permitting!

S-21 and the Killing Fields

In the afternoon we began our tour of the Killing fields. Cambodia has a very dark history with a large scale Genocide taking place in the mid 70s.

Whilst it’s not an activity you look forward to… it’s one of those parts of history that when you visit a country and town which hold memorials for this huge event then you have to go and see it. If you read up on Cambodia, the Killing fields are usually mentioned pretty closely to anything in the recent history of the country.

I’m going to keep this blog very short because you quite simply cannot understand what happened and cannot put it into words.

S-21 was one of the prisons but it was located in the city. It was a school before it converted and today it stands as a reminder and memorial to what happened.

It was one of the most devastating things I have seen in my life. I will never understand it and I felt angry that it happened. We got to meet one of the survivors from one of the prisons. I don’t think I’ll have a more sobering experience in the rest of my life.

Phnom Penh

When we arrived in Phnom Penh we went for dinner near the river. The City had a really good view of the nearby river and it looked like somewhere in Scandinavia, just warmer.

Everyone was feeling pretty tired so we had a quick orientation walk around the town before going to the local market to see what they had available. The local market wasn’t amazing in my opinion. It had a lot of clothes and some street food but it wasn’t the type of market I was expecting. Anyways, it was good to see.

After the market we went to a rooftop bar called Cloud Nine Skybar. This place was really cool and had an incredible view of the city. As far as Skybars go, the prices were actually pretty reasonable. We stayed here for a little while and I even got to watch the FIFA World Cup group stage draw. Nothing like watching football related programmes in a rooftop bar – who said backpacking was difficult?

Across the road there was a back packer hostel that had a rooftop bar attached to it. A few of us wanted to stay for drinks so we wandered across the road and went there for a drink. The hostel was pretty average but the rooftop bar had potential. It could have been amazing if there were lots of people there but by the time we arrived there were only a couple of people.

In the morning, we chilled at the hotel for a few hours and went to the pool that was on the and second floor. It had been a full on few days and so it was really nice to chill and relax for a change!

Quad bike around Siem Reap followed by a night out

Once we had freshened up a small group of us (5) went quad biking. Before starting we had to fill out the legal waiver which essentially signs your life away if anything goes wrong. As much as I wanted to go fast, the threat of losing all of my travel budget paying for any damage to a quad bike was a pretty big deterrent.

We went around the edges of Siem Reap and saw some really cool sights. There were a lot of farmers fields growing rice which sound basic and boring but it’s the sort of view you would see in a film scene… so to see it with my own eyes was really cool.

The Quad bikes were pretty powerful but as mentioned above I didn’t dare to push it too far. I also had one of the girls in the tour group sat on the back of the quad bike so I felt pretty responsible!

We got to the edge of one of the rice fields and stopped on the side of the road. There was a small group of water buffalo chilling in the fields which were partially flooded. The water must have been about a meter high and the buffalo were essentially using it as a bath.

It was a small group of buffalo with some younger ones and they made really strange noises whilst running about. All captured on the GoPro of course!

Our final stop on the quads was a small village on the outskirts of Siem Reap. We stopped here and got speaking with one of the guides on the quads. He was telling us about the local kids and families and the schooling situation. We were told the public schools don’t really teach much English to the children and you need to go to a private school to get a better education in the English language. It was a pretty humbling experience because he mentioned it cost $300 USD to send one child to a private school per year. It made me reflect on the money I’ve wasted going for that Nando’s on a Sunday that wasn’t needed or buying a football shirt for £50 to add to my collection.

There are better uses for our money and it could literally change someone’s life. It was a big eye opener for me personally.

Another good day with a very sobering end.